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ColLotteral damage

April 29th, 2003

Tim Lambert has produced yet more evidence of academic malfeasance by pro-gun economist John Lott. Kevin Drum at Calpundit has more. Since I was convinced long ago that Lott was discredited beyond any hope of redemption, the only point of remaining interest is the collateral damage being incurred by Lott’s allies and defenders.

Obviously, the once-respected American Enterprise Institute, which still employs Lott, is at the top of the list. Having had my own run-in with its current head Karl Zinsmeister, I agree with Brad de Long, whom I cited a while ago saying “Back in the late 1970s, the American Enterprise Institute ranked close to the Brookings Institution as a thinktank you could trust not to deliberately lie to you. Now it has fallen very deeply into the pit indeed”. No doubt some good work is still being done at AEI, but the AEI stamp now detracts from credibility rather than adding to it.

Another casualty is Lott’s Australian co-author, and gun rights advocate, John Whitley, who ended up with his name on an article that Lott himself refused to sign off on when the other party in a dispute pointed out a string of coding errors (Tim Lambert, linked above, has the details).

But the biggest not-so-innocent bystander to be hit by friendly fire is surely the king of the blogworld, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit. Having cut his blogging teeth on the Bellesiles scandal (the discrediting of a widely-acclaimed piece of research seen as favorable to gun control), and having ferociously attacked those on the anti-gun side who failed to dissociate themselves from Bellesiles, Reynolds has consistently given Lott the benefit of the doubt, and has even, in a dispute between Lott and respected economist Steve Levitt, been implicated in Lott’s slimy manoeuvres (again, see Tim Lambert for the complex and gory details). Clearly all that rhetoric about ‘fact-checking your ass’ only applies to those who come up with the wrong conclusions.

Update Jason Soon reports that Steve Levitt has just been awarded the John Bates Clark medal for the best US economist under 40 (Paul Krugman is a previous winner, and it’s often seen as a harbinger of a future Nobel). So I guess he won’t be too worried by anything Lott and Reynolds have to say about him. Tom Spencer has more.

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